What kind of cherry tree can I get to cross-pollinate with my 'Black Tartarian' tree?
Your best choice would be a 'Yellow Napoleon' or 'Red Windsor' cherry tree. Your 'Black Tartarian' tree also is needed to pollinate many other varieties, such as 'Lambert', 'Napoleon', and 'Bing' cherries.
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How can I keep my dogs from digging in the garden?
In addition to erecting a fence around your garden, there are several other options. Chemical cat and dog repellents, available at garden supply stores, are very effective, although you probably won't want them leaching into your garden. You also may use repellents with citronella or cayenne pepper, but they lose their potency after a day or so. One reader suggests planting rue, a perennial herb with an odor that keeps cats away. Another suggests placing chicken wire over areas where animals are likely to dig.
My tomato leaves are covered with a sticky yellow substance. What is this?
Most likely you're being visited by aphids, tiny insects whose main job is to suck the juice out of your tomato leaves. They give off this sticky substance, called honeydew, which attracts ants and causes mold to develop. Controlling these interlopers usually requires the use of an insecticidal soap spray. Consult your local nursery for the best option in your area.
What's the best method for dealing with poison ivy?
There is no shortage of remedies for poison ivy. Mild cases may be helped by calamine lotion, over-the-counter cortisone cream, and saltwater soaks, but severe cases may require prescription cortisone. Try using a barrier cream if you are about to venture into the woods or other areas that are likely to have poison ivy. If you have it growing in your yard, cover the plants with black plastic to kill them. Be careful, however; even dead plants can be infectious.
Is there a natural repellent for deer ticks and wood ticks?
We recommend crushed garlic. Rub it on your wrists, ankles, and exposed skin before heading out into tick country. Avoid putting the garlic on or near your face.
How much should I be watering my strawberries?
Strawberries desire a lot of moisture. Depending on recent rainfalls, make sure they receive at least an inch of water per week, more if it's exceptionally dry or warm. They need a lot of water when the runners and flowers are developing and again in the fall when the plants are mature.
Last year, our cherry tree produced many cherries, but when we cut into them, they were full of little worms. What are they, and how can we prevent them from ruining our cherries this year?
The worms are cherry fruit fly maggots. The best way to get rid of them is to trap or spray the flies before they lay their eggs in the fruit. To trap them, use two or three bright yellow 10x10-inch boards about the same thickness as cardboard and covered with Tack Trap. (Many garden supply stores also sell ready-made fruit fly traps.) Hang the traps in the tree about three weeks after it blossoms and just after the flies first appear. The female flies also may be attracted to red, apple-size plastic or wooden balls coated with Tack Trap and hung on the tree. If you fail to catch any flies by trapping, you may want to spray the tree weekly with rotenone for two or three weeks.
When is the best time to move rose plants? Will they die if I move them in full flower?
The ideal time, for most of the United States, is early spring, when the soil is soft and easily worked, and the rosebush is still nearly dormant. The coming warm weather will help regenerate the bush. Fall is the second best time, toward the end of October or in November, if the soil is still reasonably warm. The plant will do better the longer it has to reestablish itself before winter cold arrives. You can transplant roses in mid-season, say June or July, but it's risky. Play it safe by pruning back the bushes by about one-third (which would remove your flowers). This helps the roses recover from transplant shock. To transplant, prepare the new location as if you were planting the bush for the first time, but include additional water and soil or mulch to prevent dehydration. Take care not to lose any roots, transfer quickly, and hill the soil or mulch to retain as much moisture as possible. Also to prevent dehydration, transplant on a mild, calm, cloudy day when rain is predicted. Be especially careful not to unnecessarily expose the plant's fine, white feeder roots to air, sun, or wind.